When in Rock Hall, ROCK fish!
While in Rock Hall, Maryland, I was so lucky to find the great folks over at Chester River Seafood (commercial & retail sales) and wow, one word…Rock fish. This is more commonly known to those not familiar with the Eastern Shore as Striped Bass or “Stripers.” When in Maryland, this Rockfish is not to be confused with the almost a dozen other species of Rockfish. The term “Rockfish” was coined because the Striped Bass or “Stripers” like “to nestle in the nooks and crannies of reefs and ledges.”
Despite how many times I have drove through my favourite towns on the Eastern Shore, I had never picked up and cooked my own Rockfish. But with this trip, all that has changed.
Let’s Get Cookin’
I love blackening both chicken and fish but I particularly love making my own blackening mixture. Unfortunately at this point I have not yet equipped my aluminum kitchen on wheels, so we’re operating off of the bare minimum in food prep department. Lucky for me I was able to grab a small shaker of Old Bay with Blackened Seasoning. Talk about perfect for the road, boat or Airstream:) This is an area that I plan to expand upon in future posts…building out the ultimate Airstream kitchen. But for today, blackened Rockfish is what’s on the skillet.
This might be one of the easiest recipes in my arsenal.
- Rockfish Fillets (they can be pretty big and don’t reduce much, so eye it up at the fish monger and ask for the best serving size for two people, or more if you’re traveling with family & friends)
- Olive Oil
- Old Bay with Blackened Seasoning
- 1/2 Cup of Fresh Flat Italian Parsley, finely chopped
- 1 Large Lemon juiced
- 4 TBS of Mayonnaise
- 1 TBS of Coarse Mustard
- 1/4 Cup Scallions finely diced
- 1 TSP of Cayenne Pepper
- Salt & Pepper to Taste
Prepping the Fish
To prepare the fish, first and foremost…make sure to bring the fish to room temperature at least 30 minutes before cooking. As Emeril put it ever so eloquently, “‘People never realize that they take their seafood right out of the refrigerator and throw it on a hot grill,’ and then complain about the result: fish sticking to the grates. ‘You have to bring it into the game.’”
Then if I did not ask the fish monger to de-skin my filets, I will very carefully do so using a fillet knife. I prefer to de-skin my fish but I understand that not only is the crispy skin desirable, it helps to keep it together on the grill.
Next, I drizzle one side of the fillets with olive oil and use my hands to evenly spread the olive oil on both sides. Don’t be too liberal as olive oil goes a long way. After you have coated both sides in olive oil, begin sprinkling the blackening spice onto the fillets, making sure to gently rub it into the meat a bit. Don’t overdo it and mash the fish apart. You just want the spices to stick so that it creates a beautiful and crispy crust when grilled.
ROCKING your Rock Fish!
Once your grill or fire is up to temperature, you can either use a skillet OR right on the grates, as long as you have properly cleaned them, and have made sure to season them beforehand with a little extra oil to avoid sticking. If there’s one accessory/utensil you will find yourself not wanting to live without on the road, think fish spatula. They come in a variety of styles and obviously, prices. Just remember that you can’t use tephlon and non-stick spatulas on a grill, unless you’re in the mood to eat plastic. Flame has a tendency to melt things, lol.
Allow the fish to cook. If you leave the skin on, try to keep the filet skin side down until it’s a little more than 3/4’s cooked, then flip it over. If you choose to cook the fillets without skin, try a 50/50 flip. The worst thing you can do with fish is flipping it back and forth. It’s honestly very easy to tell once your fish has been cooked through. You will easily be able to put a fork through the thickest part of the meat without struggle. It should be opaque white in color.
Creating Louisiana Style Remoulade
To make the Louisiana Style Remoulade, I like to keep it simple. So in a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, mayonnaise and mustard and mix until all wet ingredients are well combined. Then add your herbs and spices.
Rockfish is one of the many fish, ideal for grilling. While it cooks up white, while raw it is red/deep pink. And in the words of my original cooking mentor, Emeril Lagasse, “seafood should never, ever smell fishy.” Some people have Julia Child. I have Emeril Lagasse.
My Love Affair with Mr. Lagasse, Fishing and the Sea
One of my earliest memories of watching Emeril, the avid fisherman and seafood lover, on TV, he said just that. Unfortunately I can’t remember the exact episode but this statement transformed my love of cooking fish and has enabled me to bring it to friends and family, who previously had not even tried seafood whatsoever. Even I have purchased smelly fish, and just grew up thinking that some types of fish smell worse than others. Boy was I wrong.
To me there is something very intimate about seafood. There’s this entire relationship between fishermen, their boats and Mother Nature. To me this makes their catch so much more earned than just about any other profession. And much like any amazing friendship, there is a balance that must be struck with the weather and the tides and other unforeseen forces. And no matter how rough the seas may get, you always find a way to return to your friend. In fact you want to return, no matter how bad a day of fishing you’ve had. It’s a give an take relationship, and it’s not always pretty, but that love for the sea and catch, never recedes.
If I could walk away from everything I do today, I would run down the dock and leap onto the boat. But alas, for now, I have to be content with cooking that which our local fishermen have caught and I’m cool with that. But I diverge.
I promise you will want more of these beautiful fish filets. And more you can most definitely get, the longer your stay on the Eastern Shore. If you call ahead to Chester River Seafood, they can order you up just about anything. Just give them a few days notice. Their pies are absolutely amazing as well;)
And if you still have room in your belly after dinner, and feel like riding into town, find Get the Scoop Walk Up Ice Cream Stand. They serve Kilby Farm Ice Cream, ice cream I fell SO in love with that I now have their ice cream AND milk delivered to my house!
Sweet dreams and full bellies from Rock Hall, Maryland;)